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Peel Agincourt Diary: 25 October (entry 12)

I began to wonder what would happen to the mortal remains of the countless dead who lay upon the field. There were far too many to see proper Christian burial by our people. I did not even know if all of our own dead will receive proper rites, as they should. I went to the edge of the battlefield to offer prayers for the repose of those souls. Rain was falling and I imagined it as the tears of the our Savior and His saints for all the good Christian souls sent to judgement this day. When I came upon the site of the king’s God-given victory, I saw that there were men and women moving among the dead. From bits of talk that I heard, I knew them to be French. What our people had not taken from the dead, they did. I heard exclamations from one group, then a weak voice calling for succor. That group drew into a tight knot. I thought that I saw a glint of metal and there followed a scream that stopped abruptly. These people were busy for a few moments before the departed, carrying burdens. I knew what I had witnessed was no more or less than our own peopled had done, but the thought that these French men and women were so far into the shadow of the devil’s wings so as to do as they had done to their own countryman made my soul shiver. I fled back to our camp.

Thoughts of the dead still beset me. I take small comfort in knowing that at least our fallen nobles will receive their due, as is right and proper. I have been told that the corpses of the duke of York and the earl of Suffolk, since they can neither be embalmed nor encased in lead to seal in the putrefaction, are being prepared. They have been quartered and are now being boiled in order that the flesh may come away from the bones. When this is accomplished, their bones will be reverently placed in a small coffer that they may be carried back to England for interment with all due ceremony in a final resting place fit for their station.

I will pray for their souls and all the souls of the departed until God, in His mercy, sends me sleep.

Peel Agincourt Diary: 25 October (entry 11)

As evening approached it began to rain again. The king said it was too late to resume the march and retired to his lodging in Maisoncellle. I think he reasons that it is more than the hour, for the men are desperately tired and cannot sustain further effort. The victuals we have taken from the French baggage train will refresh us all and be most welcome after the deprivation we have suffered for so long.

As weary as they are the soldiers are moving about the battlefield, searching among the slain for treasure. Some are seeking arms and armor to replace their own that has been lost or damaged, others do so in order to sell it for gain. Two of Sir Geoffrey’s archers have clattered back into camp with enough harness to equip themselves as men-at-arms twice over.

The scavenging activities, although right and proper for our people as the day’s victors, have come to the king’s attention. He is mindful of the continuing threat from the French, either through ambush or renewed direct opposition. Overburdened with loot, the army would be vulnerable. Further, we have yet some distance to travel before we reach the safety of the Pas de Calais and, despite this night’s bounty, food will remain scarce until we reach that haven. He now orders that no one is to acquire more than he needs for himself. All the rest of the arms and armor is to be brought to a certain barn and burned, that it might not fall back into the hands of the French to our detriment. There is much grumbling, but the king’s will is being done.

Peel Agincourt Diary: 25 October (entry 10)

At some point in time, during the confusion of the battle, a party of French fell upon our baggage train, slaying and stealing. Many horses were taken or run off and even some of the king’s own carts were plundered. [When the losses were accounted, the pillagers took 219 pounds,16 shillings in cash as well jewels including a gem-studded golden cross worth 2166 pounds, a piece of the True Cross, the king’s crown, his state sword, and the seals of the English chancery. – Ed.]

Peel Agincourt Diary: 25 October (entry 9)

Our England has reason to rejoice and reason to grieve. Let us rejoice at the victory gained and the deliverance of her men, and let us grieve for the suffering and destruction wrought in the deaths of Christians. Let not our people ascribe the triumph to their own glory or strength; rather let it be ascribed to God alone, from Whom is every victory, lest the Lord be wrathful at our ingratitude, and at another time turn from us His victorious hand, which Heaven forbid.

Much could be written of how the battle went and likely, one better versed in arms and the ways of battle will do so. I have seen valiant French men-at-arms force their horses forward on the rain-soaked field, their formations broken by the mud. I have seen the sky so darkened by arrows such that a man could not be faulted if he thought a cloud had passed before the sun. I have seen men and horses fall beneath good English arrows, and heard the pitiful screaming of wounded horses as they lay dying or ran, maddened, back the way they had come or straight into the advancing French vanguard.  Some were without riders and others carried their riders along whether they willed it or not, for such was the frenzy of the animals that only the greatest of riders might have had the skill to restrain their steeds.

I have seen steadfast French men-at-arms struggle through a quagmire made much worse by the retreating horses. I could see the men-at-arms as they came, slowly. No more did man stand shoulder to shoulder with his companion, but each lurched forward, as best he could. Their heads they bent as if into a storm wind. They did this in part from the effort of slogging through mud that was in some places as deep as a man’s calf but also so that their faces might be protected from falling arrows. Some fell and struggled to their feet to come on again and others lay fallen, killed or wounded beyond their strength to continue. Others were suffocated by mud in their armor. And always those behind pressed forward in their eagerness to reach us.

I saw our English line stagger under the weight of their onslaught.  Our valiant men were pushed back six feet in some places, twelve in others. I myself fell on my face before the great merciful God, crying aloud in bitterness of spirit that God might yet remember us and the crown of England and, by the grace of His supreme bounty, deliver us from this iron furnace and the terrible death that menaced us.

God Almighty, in His mercy, and the most noble St. George were with us, and the line held. Our men-at-arms recovered their ground and the fighting was fierce. Our archers continued to shoot into the French, deadly at such close quarters, and when they had no more arrows, they cast aside their bows and took up their swords and axes and even the leaden mauls they had used to hammer in their stakes and fell upon the the enemy. Our marvelous God sent strength into the limbs of our men, which want of food and rest had previously weakened and wasted, took away from them their fear, and gave them dauntless hearts. Never, I think, have Englishmen ever fallen upon their enemies more boldly or with a better will.

At first, the press was so great and so desperate that no prisoners were taken. All the French men-at-arms, without distinction of person, were killed where they fell. The great numbers of the French then became their great weakness. Men pressed together, at first to come to grips with ours, but later because their own pushed behind them. Their mass became so entangled that the French men-at-arms could not wield their weapons. Some were bludgeoned down unable to defend themselves and others were pushed down or stumbled. Any who went down found themselves unable to rise and many were crushed underfoot or beneath the growing pile of bodies.

As there was great honor in even the least blow struck against a king, the French men-at-arms strove mightily to reach King Henry beneath his banner. The king’s brother Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, was struck a grievous blow and fell at his brother’s feet. Our valiant king, blessed of God, stood straddling his fallen brother and defended his body with his own prowess at great peril of losing his own life until his companions could rally to aid and carry the fallen duke back to safety.

For three hours, men struggled beneath the judging eye of the Almighty. At some point the French main battle merged with the vanguard in the press. The great Oriflamme, that sacred banner of France, went down and was never seen again. Ever more weary, the French slackened in their assault and prisoners began to be taken. Then someone shouted that the French had rallied and another that they were going to attack again for their rearguard was forming a battle line. With our people so few and weary, the great fear was that the French, mounted and in great number and still fresh, would soon fall upon us. King Henry ordered that all save the most eminent prisoners were to be killed lest they should involve our men in utter disaster in the fighting that would ensue. [Strictly speaking, what Henry ordered was against the law of arms, as a captor was obliged to protect his prisoners from those who would do them harm. In practical terms, the king could afford to do little else as the safety of his own men was an overriding priority and he could not, while facing the possibility of a fresh force that he likely believed outnumbered him, afford the chance that the prisoners would take up arms again in such circumstances and attack from his rear, an event that likely would have assured the destruction of the English army. Indeed, Christine de Pisan in writing on proper chivalric conduct some years earlier, said that a prince had the right to execute an opponent who had been captured and handed to him if the prince was convinced that great harm would befall him and his people if he allowed the prisoner to go free. -Ed.]

As it came to pass, most of the French rearguard never came to battle as a whole, for large numbers fled when it became clear to them that God had sided with us English. The counts of Dammartin and Fauquenbergue and the sire de Laurois, into whose command had been given that battle, sought to change that judgement. With those they could rally to their banners, they charged to save what they could of French honor. Like all those who had ridden at us before, they fell beneath English arrows into the mud. All save Dammartin and a certain Clinget de Brabant were killed.

I know not if those men-at-arms still fighting ours in the press understood the fate of their companions or if their courage finally failed seeing that our soldiers, inspired by St. George and given strength by the Sovereign King of heaven, with King Henry at the forefront still were fighting them as strongly as they had from the beginning. Those engaged with our men who still had their horses, turned to flight. Other fell back, and whether their pages brought them their horse nor not, fled as well.

When it was clear that God had made His judgement and that there would be no more fighting for the day, the king sent for the heralds, who, both French and English, had sat aside the whole day that they might observe the battle and know its course and thus proclaim the dying of those noble men who strove there upon. He formally requested of Montjoie, chief of the French heralds, whether the victory had fallen to the English or the French. Montjoie was forced to admit that God had given the victory to King Henry, thus proving his cause was just. The king then asked him the name of the castle that lay nearest the field because all battles ought to bear the name of the nearest fortress, village, or town to the place where they were fought. Montjoie said that the castle of which he enquired was named Agincourt and the king replied that this battle would now and forever be known as the battle of Agincourt.

Peel Agincourt Diary: 25 October (entry 8)

To my great relief, God and St. George have been with us and the French have stood idle while the army marched upon them. The archers, having uprooted their stakes from the first position, have set them against as a bulwark against the enemy. The field where they stand is narrower, the woods closer together.

No cavalry charge was mounted and no artillery, neither bows nor crossbows or even any of their guns, have been brought forth to make dispute. [Here there is a marginal addition: “I have heard that as the army went forward, many of the French cavalry were not at their stations, having departed to water or exercise their horses.” – Ed.]

A shout has gone up. Mounted men-at-arms are moving forward on either flank of the French vanguard. God be praised! They are far fewer in number then we thought would be sent against us. The French vanguard advances as well. Five thousands of archers draw their bows full compass.

God help us all, the true battle has begun.

Peel Agincourt Diary: 25 October (entry 7)

The king has ordered that the baggage train and all with come up behind the army and it has been done. Now, at his order, the priests of his household are raising their voices in prayer on behalf of the army and his endeavor and, at his order, they shall do so as long as the conflict shall last.

He gave a command that every man, regardless of his rank and station, kneel and take a morsel of earth from beneath his feet, to place it in his mouth. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, and dust to dust.

The king intends the army to advance. In the name of Almighty God, and of Saint George, advance the banner, he shouts. All around King Henry the men shout, let us go, fellows. The horns and drums are sounding.

Into your hands, O God, we march. St. George, this day your help we pray.

Peel Agincourt Diary: 25 October (entry 6)

The armies have stood in place for hours now. God bless those among our men who remain afflicted by the bloody flux and still stand in their places, ready to do their duty. Some have cut their soiled hosen and braes away for to make free passage of the product of their loosened bowels. The stench grows increasingly vile.

When Sir Robert [Sir Robert Mareschale, a veteran knight retained  by Sir Geoffrey. – Ed.] came back from the line for a drink of water, as men were doing in rotation, I asked him how it could be that two armies come together for battle should simply stand and do nothing. He said that it was well known that when men on foot march against their enemy face to face, those who march lose and those who remain standing still and holding firm win. The French, he said, hope to play upon our condition and desperation. Then he mocked them, saying that even in their great numbers, all well fed and well armed, they fear us. Still, he told me to pray that our lads would not lose heart and that the French should not be rewarded in their desire to see our men quail and run away from their solid and steady ranks.

Remember us then, O Lord, with our enemies gathered before us and boasting of themselves in their excellence. Destroy their strength and scatter them, that they may understand, because there is none other that fight for us but only You, our God. In fear and trembling, with our eyes raised to heaven, we cry out that You have compassion on us and upon the crown of England and deliver us from this evil that stands before us in its multitude.

Peel Agincourt Diary: 25 October (entry 5)

I know not what the negotiators discussed or what offers were made, but this I have learned. Among those the French sent to the parley was a certain Jacques de Créquy, sire de Heilly and marshal of Guienne, a foresworn knight. He had been captured some two years ago by the earl of Dorset, then acting as the king’s lieutenant in Aquitaine. The earl had seen this de Créquy to England, to abide while his ransom was raised, but when this fellow heard of the fall of Harfluer, he and some other prisoners broke out of Wisbech Castle, where they were being held, and returned to France, becoming thus foresworn. He claimed that he would prove upon the body of any man in the host brave enough to reproach him on his unseemly behavior, in single combat, that he should not be shamed, and that all wrongful report of him would be shown to be imagined. The king would have no part of this false knight’s vainglory. No battle shall be fought here at this time for such a cause, he said, and we trust in God that that you, having no regard for the honor of knighthood and being escaped from us, shall this day either be taken and brought to us again or else by the sword you will finish your life.

Of other matters all I know of the brief parley’s results is that the king had no more acceptance of any French terms than he had for the false du Créquy and the French likewise for anything our good king offered them. By his offer of parley here on the field before battle, King Henry has met the last of justice’s demands and fulfilled the formalities required by the laws of arms. All that remains now is the trial of battle between the assembled might of the greatest nations in all Europe. Our king’s disputed claims stand before God’s judgment.

Peel Agincourt Diary: 25 October (entry 2)

The king, resplendent in all his armor except his helmet, has heard lauds [the first service of the day – Ed.] and three masses as he is accustomed to start his day. He is moving about now in his armor, polished bright by his squires, and glittering in the chill dawn light. Over his steel he wears a tabard bearing the arms of England and France. He has donned a helmet surmount by a golden crown studded with jewels and adorned with fleur-de-lis. The is no doubt no one will mistake where he stands on the battlefield. Having mounted a small grey horse, he rides for the battlefield.